Mercury Safe Considerations

About 50 percent of dentists in the U.S are Mercury-free, which means that they are no longer offering silver-amalgam fillings to restore teeth. However, only an estimated 10 percent of those fully understand the health risks associated with dental amalgam—half of which is toxic mercury, despite what the misleading term "silver filling" might lead you to believe.

It's crucial to understand these risks when removing and replacing amalgam "silver" fillings, or you could risk acute toxicity from the mercury released during the removal process.

In addition, because it has been proven that high levels of toxic mercury vapor are released when amalgam fillings are removed, Mercury-Safe dentists have made their offices as mercury-safe as possible. To that end, these dentists use state-of-the art technology and equipment, in addition to safe amalgam-removal protocols, to protect their patients, their staff and themselves from excessive, and unnecessary exposure to mercury at the dental office. In doing so they've now made their practices both Mercury Free (amalgam free) and Mercury Safe.

This is crucial distinction for your safety and well-being, so please do take this advice seriously.

Why Dentists are Mercury Free and Mercury Safe

Dental schools still teach dentists to use silver amalgam fillings and the American Dental Association (ADA) continues to tell the public they are safe. But recently more and more questions have been raised about the safety of the mercury vapor released from amalgams. This has resulted in a controversy and an ongoing debate about them - with some dentists saying they are safe and some saying they aren’t. This has now evolved to the point where over 50% of practicing dentists are no longer putting mercury amalgam fillings in their patients’ teeth. However, only an estimated 10 percent of those fully understand the health risks associated with dental amalgam—half of which is toxic mercury, despite what the misleading term "silver filling" might lead you to believe. In fact, three countries, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have banned the use of these fillings in the dental practice.

The controversy has made me rethink what I was taught in dental school. After extensive research, including reading Dr. Hal Huggins’ book “It’s All in Your Head” and Dr. Tom McGuire’s book “The Poison in Your Teeth: Mercury Amalgam (Silver) Fillings . . . Hazardous to Your Health”, and information provided on the ADA’s website, I have concluded that it would no longer be in the best interests of my patients to offer amalgam as a filling material and become amalgam free. After getting formal education and personal training from Dr. Hal Huggins’ Diagnostic Center in Colorado Springs, CO, my own “transformation” to Mercury-free, Mercury-safe practice was complete by 1993.

Becoming both a Mercury Free (amalgam free) and Mercury Safe dental practice is a decision made by the individual dentist - but they all believe that deciding whether or not to have your existing amalgam fillings removed and replaced must be your choice. Because we place great importance on Patient Education, we feel it is our responsibility to educate our patients about the relationship of oral health to overall systemic (body) issues and to provide them with the information required for them to make educated decisions regarding any/all future dental treatment. That is why many dentists provide their patients with Dr. McGuire’s and Dr. Huggins’ books, and why they also encourage patients to go to the ADA’s website (www.ada.org) to learn more about the pros and cons of removing, or keeping, mercury amalgam fillings. But every mercury-safe dentist will make it clear that the decision to remove and replace amalgam fillings can, and should only be made by the patient.  Dr. Fazio and his staff always insist that the patient and his/her healthcare provider be the ones to decide when or if, any existing fillings be replaced.

Mercury Free and Mercury Safe Dentists: What's the Difference?

Dentists who are both Mercury Free (amalgam/silver filling free) and Mercury Safe want their patients to know that there is a significant difference between the two. As a patient it is also very important to know the difference between the two - as more and more dentists are becoming Mercury Free but are still not Mercury Safe.

Strictly speaking, the term “Mercury Free” refers to dentists who do not put amalgam fillings in their patients’ teeth. This term was first used over 40 years ago by dentists who wanted to distinguish themselves from other dentists who believed that mercury amalgams were safe and continued to use them.

However, the term Mercury-Free wasn’t a truly accurate description because even dentists who didn’t put in amalgam fillings still had to remove them – and the removal process released excessive and unnecessary amounts of toxic mercury vapor. But while being Mercury Free was a good beginning - it solved only part of the problem.

Over time, dentists who were Mercury-Free developed protocols and equipment that allowed them to dramatically minimize a patient’s exposure to mercury during the amalgam removal process. In effect, using these protocols meant that their practices were not just Mercury (amalgam) Free - but also were now Mercury-Safe – yet they erroneously continued to only use the term Mercury Free to describe themselves. But times have changed and the term "Mercury Free" is not only inadequate but confusing and misleading!

Today it is no longer enough for a dentist who is both Mercury (amalgam) Free and Mercury Safe to just promote his or her practice as being Mercury Free. Why? Recently a survey showed that 52% of general dentists no longer use amalgam and call themselves Mercury Free. But, and this is important for every dental patient to know; not because they were concerned about safely removing them – but mainly because they no longer felt amalgam was a good filling material when compared to the newer composite fillings.

This of course has created a dilemma for patients who believed that dentists who said they were Mercury (amalgam) Free meant they also used protocols to safely remove amalgam fillings. But patients are catching on and now look for dentists who will safely remove their amalgam fillings and now ask this question of the dentist: “Are you both Mercury Free and Mercury Safe?” Bottom line . . . you can’t assume that a dentist who advertises his or her practice as being Mercury(amalgam) Free, is also Mercury Safe – unless you ask!

The Main Difference between a Mercury Safe Dentist and a Dentist who is only Mercury Free

Unsafe removal of amalgam/silver fillings can generate huge amounts of toxic mercury vapor, easily over 100 times more than the maximum levels of mercury vapor allowed by all government regulatory agencies.

What really separates Mercury Safe Dentists from those who are 'only' Mercury Free, is our understanding that:

  • When unsafely removed, amalgam fillings release excessive and unnecessary amounts of poisonous mercury vapor.
     
  • The mercury released from amalgam fillings negatively affects themselves, the patient, the staff, and the environment.

     
  • Patients absolutely need to be protected from exposure to toxic mercury vapor during the amalgam removal process.


     

Mercury Safe Dentists also have the specialized equipment, training, experience, and skills necessary to minimize their patients’ exposure to mercury during amalgam removal. If you want to protect yourself from excessive and unnecessary occupational exposure to mercury vapor at the dental office make sure your dentist is not just Mercury Free - but also Mercury Safe!

Mercury-Safe, Biological dentists, also known as holistic, or environmental dentists, operate according to the belief system that your teeth are an integral part of your body and hence your overall health, and recognize that your oral and dental health can have a major influence on other disease processes in your body. Any medical treatment performed takes this fact into account The primary aim of holistic dentistry is to resolve your dental problems while working in harmony with the rest of your body.

I recommend using a Mercury-free, Mercury-safe, biological dentist for all your dental needs, but if you're considering removing dental amalgams, it's an absolute necessity! Most conventional dentists simply do not have the know-how to do this without putting your health at risk in the process.

For example, some things that need to be done to keep you safe during amalgam removal include:

  • Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth during the removal process when toxic aerosols are created by drilling.
     
  • Pre-operative mouth rinse with a solution made of food-grade, Activated charcoal powder and water, to cover teeth and all soft tissues inside the mouth. This is, in effect, another simple and effective barrier to prevent mercury vapors from being absorbed inside the mouth
     
  • Disposable patient drape covering head and body, protective eyewear, and face covered during drilling
     
  • Using additional cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors when drilling. This is provided by the dental assistant to supplement the water coming from the drill.
     
  • Putting a dental dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins (some biological dentists will use the surround-type suction tip called the Clean-up tip in lieu of rubber dam because it is possible for mercury vapors to pass thru the dam and get trapped there during the removal process)
     
  • Using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor. Dr. Fazio always uses the Clean-Up tip during drilling
     
  • Washing your mouth out immediately after the fillings have been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal) Activated charcoal rinse works best here.
     
  • Immediately cleaning and/or changing your protective wear and face covering once the fillings are removed.
     
  • Using room air purifiers as well as proper dental operatory ventilation to clear away the airborne particulate matter and toxic vapors that are not directly suctioned by the dental personnel.
     

Additional or alternative precautions may also be used. For example, pre-operative nutritional supplements for support and detoxification can be suggested. Dr. Fazio has designed and constructed a dental operating room specifically for the express purpose of removing mercury-amalgams safely. This “Dental Clean Room” is called the “Safe-T-Op” This will insure that the environment in which the dental treatment is rendered, is the most Mercury-safe, comfortable, and environmentally-responsible location available today